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At the Roundhouse: Back to school

Debate over New Mexico public school spending is headed for critical At The Roundhousevotes this week as the 30-day legislative session nears its halfway point and the House tries to produce the first draft of a state budget.

Journal staffer Jim Monteleone will be reporting the action from the House Appropriations and Finance Committee today @jmonteleone and

The Legislature reaches the session’s halfway mark on Wednesday. Public school funding must clear the House before its taken up in the Senate.

Formal debate on a proposed constitutional amendment to divert more money from the Land Grant Permanent Fund for early childhood education seems to be awaiting House action on the budget.

The hot education story in the Senate so far has been political pressure on fiscally conservative Senate Finance Committee Chairman John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, to consider the early childhood education amendment. He has opposed the proposal in the past but hasn’t closed the door this year.

Anticipating the coming debate over the early childhood amendment, House Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by Rep. Jim Trujillo, D-Santa Fe, I figured I’d better brush up on the details.

First, I went to Journal investigative reporter Colleen Heild‘s three-part series on New Mexico early childhood programs published in September. You can read all three of those reports by clicking on the preceeding link.

I also went to the first volume of the Legislative Finance Committee’s annual budget documents. The LFC provides several pages of summary and analysis of the state’s early childhood programs and you can read them here.

I was reminded of interesting background in reviewing the LFC analysis:

The National Conference of State Legislatures ranked New Mexico among the highest in the nation for increased early childhood funding in FY13. In FY14, the Legislature substantially increased targeted funding to programs such as home visiting, Prekindergarten and childcare assistance.” 

You can read even more on the debate on early childhood programs and the constitutional amendment proposal by visiting the Journal archives. Click here and you’ll get a long list of stories and opinion pieces over the years.

Meanwhile, don’t miss coverage of Legislature developments in today’s Journal.

UpFront columnist Thom Cole takes a look at New Mexico’s struggling lottery scholarship program.

And Jim Monteleone provides an in-depth look at the debate over budget proposals for the state’s judges and courts.

Check for a report by the AP’s Barry Massey on lobbyist spending.